Letters, Summer 1996
Race Traitor welcomes your comments and will be publishing selected excerpts of correspondence in these pages. Editorial responses are posted in red.
REMOVE MY NAME
1) Why spend so much time and effort on arguing with such an undeviating Hitlerite as Mr. Pendragon of the National Socialist White People's Party? In the end, all you had to show for it was getting on a first name basis, proving that you did not consider yourself to be one of those bad Jews from the genes, and making the point that you are not a Zionist, a "liberal" or a "pacifist." Having done so, why did you, after getting Mr. Pendragon's consent, publish the correspondence? Having decided to publish it, with his permission, why did you not at least insist that he distribute the correspondence in his circles in a number equal to the circulation of Race Traitor? Was it printed in imitation of Garrison's "Refuge of Oppression" column in the Liberator, in order to fire up the troops by reminding us of the heinousness of the National Socialists? Could you have not found another forum for setting forth your views on the subjects treated in your letters?
2) While I do not think the correspondence should
I also want to comment briefly on the lead editorial in this issue, which observes that among "angry whites," are those who share with Race Traitor the fundamental principle that "nothing less than total change is worth fighting for." (p. 3)
Let's say, for purposes of argument, that the anti-government passion shown by the "militia" movement is the "immanent opposite" within it which, if developed according to the logic of the case as we would present it, would lead them to join their anger with ours in the struggle to overthrow white supremacy.
Given our limited time and resources, where should that effort be concentrated? The editorial seems to imply that it should be centered on the intersection of the two sets, presented by the "militia" movement in Michigan, and 1988 supporters of Jesse Jackson. That would seem to be the place to start. But how? Yes, tell them that we are not "liberals" or "pacifists" (as you attempted to assure Mr. Pendragon of in your letter of 22 January 1995).
But at best that is merely to get our foot in the door. What is to be the "selling point"? It must start with "Total Change" and "Rainbow Coalition", since those are the points of presumed agreement, and obviously an either-or gambit would be self-defeating, as history has repeatedly shown. It is just as true, though perhaps less obvious, that it cannot be both, unless we can persuade these "angry whites" that the non-total change represented by the Rainbow Coalition program has some positive relationship to the prospects for "total change." How can that be done and still convince these "angry whites" that we are not "liberals" and "pacifists"? Direct action, propaganda of the deed, though an appropriate and much-needed form of struggle, is no clear answer, since liberals and pacifists in the abolitionist struggle, the women's liberation movement, the civil rights and peace movements, have shown that courage and audacity of that sort is no monopoly of "total-changers."
The differentiating principles, which have been consistently forwarded by Race Traitor, are rather the insistence on the strategic centrality of the struggle against white supremacy, the ending of the white-skin privilege system, and the dismantling of the white race, the Peculiar Institution. If the good that is immanent in the pro-Jackson "angry whites" is to serve to turn them into "angry anti-white-supremacists" it will be only through the teaching and practicing of these principles, whether by direct action, writing books, propaganda of word and of deed, mass struggle for partial demands, or otherwise.
If that is not enough to distinguish us from "the
loyal opposition," we should stop worrying about it.
Editors' Note: The preceding letter was addressed to Noel Ignatiev. Noel replied, explaining the reasons for publishing the exchange and the editorial. On January 17, 1996, Ted wrote once more, stating, "Your... reference to the 'revolutionary oppositionism' of the Nazis and your apparent view that official exchanges with their leaders may help the fight against white supremacy did nothing to ease my 'discomfort'...," and asked to have his name removed from the list of contributing editors.
INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE
OBSCENE AND REVOLTING
A recurring theme of Pendragon's is that a central aspect of being Jewish is a belief of being part of a "master race dominating a raceless herd of goyim" (p.21), or "Jewish hatred of all things white" (p.33). Rather than directly challenging this central aspect of Nazi philosophy, Noel responds primarily by stating that he is not Jewish, and that his opposition to white supremacy and support for abolishing the white race has nothing to do with his being of Jewish background. In other words, Noel's defense is not directed against Pendragon's attack on Jews but rather to the point that Pendragon falsely attributes Noel's position to Noel being Jewish.
To Pendragon's proclamation that his main fight is against "jew supremacy" (p.21), Noel responds that he welcomes challenges to the privileges of Jews or any other group. He then gives an example of an article in RT attacking the privileges of Jews in Israel (p.22). Pendragon is clearly talking about Jewish privilege and supremacy in the United States. Hence, Noel is either not confronting Pendragon's claim of Jewish privilege in the U.S. or is himself putting forward the concept of Jewish privilege in the U.S. Most Jews in the U.S. are part of the "white race" and thus have white skin privilege, but to write of a specific Jewish group privilege in this country is absurd and is a central aspect of an anti-semitic world view.
Noel does challenge strongly Pendragon's denial of the Nazi holocaust against Jews. However, after Pendragon admits that if it had happened it would be a crime against humanity, Noel responds by saying there is no point in arguing what happened and goes on to other points. It is obscene to argue whether the holocaust happened but it is also obscene to continue discussion with a Nazi who denies this genocide occurred.
Noel Ignatiev states, "I hate the propensity of American Jews to whine about the past sufferings of the Jews (which they mostly get wrong and did not experience personally)." (p.27) This is a very arrogant and insensitive statement. His use of the word "whine" is totally inappropriate. It trivializes the history of oppression of Jewish people. By writing that U.S. Jews did not experience this suffering personally, I assume Noel means this persecution took place in Europe. This is certainly where anti-semitism has been most deadly. However, he is oblivious to the direct family connections of Jews in the U.S. to this history and also implicitly denies any anti-semitism in the U.S.
Noel Ignatiev sees nothing positive in being Jewish or the history of Jewish people. He says that the Jewish "spirit" to the extent it exists is flawed and a product of their role in petty commerce and its modern extension, the liberal professions. There is not one hint in Noel's 13 pages of comments on the positive role many Jews or people of Jewish background have played in the fight against white supremacy and for a revolutionary and humane socialism. In South Africa and the United States, Jews have been far more likely than other whites to struggle for liberation and support liberation struggles. In Europe, the situation has been similar. I am not arguing that most Jews are revolutionary or that Jewish tradition is primarily leftist. Rather it is not just coincidence that Rosa Luxemburg, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, Joe Slovo, Emma Goldman, Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, William Kuntsler, Abbie Hoffman and many, many others were Jewish or of Jewish background, or for that matter, Noel Ignatiev.
There are other troubling aspects of Noel's comments not directly tied to the question of Jews. Briefly! Noel writes that he wants a world "where every man can fish in the morning, ...and play cello in the evening..." (p.28), or "No man was born to be a master or a slave" (p.29). Where are the women? On page 18, Noel states that "culturally all Americans are a combination of the Yankee, the Indian and the African...". Where are the people of Asian and Pacific Island background? Further, in responding to Pendragon's attack on multiculturalism, Noel is opportunistic when he writes, "I view multiculturalism as no solution to anything." (p.31) I probably disagree with Noel on multiculturalism but in any case Noel's criticisms of multiculturalism are different from those of the National Socialist White People's Party so why state this seeming agreement with them.
I hope that Noel Ignatiev and Race Traitor are willing to consider and accept some of these criticisms. They are not motivated by general disagreement with the politics of Race Traitor or Noel Ignatiev. I believe challenging white supremacy is central to any worthwhile radical politics in the United States. Moreover, the article and pamphlet by Noel, "Black Worker, White Worker" is probably the most insightful writing I have read demonstrating why challenging white supremacy is central to revolutionary change and the strategic implications of this position. That is why the exchange between Pendragon and someone who I have had a lot of respect for, Noel Ignatiev, is so distressing.
In closing, let me add a little of my own history.
I am of Jewish background, which has certainly shaped who I am and what
I believe in, although I am not a practicing Jew. My parents immigrated
from Austria to the United States in 1939 and suffered under the Nazis
but survived. Although not relevant to my criticisms, I have been consistently
outspoken and active against Zionism, against the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza, have opposed all U.S. aid to Israel, and
supported Palestinian self-determination for over twenty years.
Editors' Note: The following letter was not sent to Race Traitor, but was taken off a discussion on the Internet.
One of these uncanny things is how the logic of
"white skin privilege" thinking plays itself out. Since all
white people who do not embrace the "race traitor" position
of Ignatiev and his rather small band of like-thinking folks are, in
effect, white supremacists, it follows that the militia are nothing
very different than the rest of white America, and nothing to be particularly
feared. Hence, we should admire their willingness to fight the federal
government (what is a small thing like blowing up a federal building
with hundreds of people, including pre-school children, in this equation?),
and join with them in para-military groups to fight the federal government.
Classic fascist, racist and anti-semitic references to international
banking conspiracies and a world government imposed by the United Nations
which are expounded by the militias are embraced by Ignatiev and his
magazine in this editorial. Organizations on the front line of the battle
against the Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacist groups, such as the
Southern Poverty Law Center and the Oregon "Communities Against
Hate" are denounced for their work. So the sorry, pitiful end of
"white skin privilege" thinking lies in calls for unity with
the most racist, most reactionary elements in America, and stands in
opposition to those who -- at some risk to their own safety -- have
made anti-racist and anti-fascist work their life's vocation.
On the next page, however, discussing affirmative action, the editors approvingly quote Lydia Maria Child: "Great political changes may be forced by the pressure of external circumstances, without a corresponding change in the moral sentiment of the nation; but in all such cases, the change is worse than useless; the evil reappears, and usually in a more exaggerated form."
Now if Child is right (as I believe she is) then we can have no warrant for forming armed paramilitary groups and taking the law into our own hands until "the moral sentiment of the nation" is overwhelmingly, or at least preponderantly, opposed to what the editors rightly call "the massive, faceless, soul-destroying system that is sucking the life out of ordinary people in this country and around the world." Do the editors really believe that this is already the case?
Those of us who think that it will be the work
of generations to radically alter "the moral sentiment of the nation"
can't help feeling that loose talk about "taking the law into our
own hands" can only be (to quote Child again) "worse than
I have just begun producing a 'zine, LIP,
in the Chicago area, that will also be distributed in New York and Seattle.
I ask your permission to reprint the exhange with complete information
appended on how to get copes of Race Traitor.
WHAT IT IS
I understand that the fifth issue provoked a number
of angry responses. To this I wish to say only that the journal affirms
itself. It is what it is. And if a true radicality scares off the liberals,
then all the better. The courage and honesty of a radical critique will
always make many friends and enemies.
Jews should stop becoming hysterical and irrational
when someone mentions something negative about a particular Jew or Jews.
As long as Jews attack Farrakhan and other legitimate leaders in the
Afrikan/Black community, the relationship between the Afrikan community
and the Jewish community will be strained or worse. The more Farrakhan
is condemned by Jews and other whites, the more Afrikans embrace him.
ASSUME I'M WHITE
BEWARE OF ACADEMIC FASHION
AND NOW THE EDITORS REPLY
In response to Ted Allen, I am an "official" of nothing; consequently, nothing I say is "official." Although Arthur Pendragon's first letter to me was not written on NSWPP letterhead, it was not difficult to tell where he was coming from. I answered him on the urging of a close friend and supporter of RT who formerly sympathized with national socialism. I continued to write because Pendragon's letters challenged me to think about some of my views and formulate them more precisely than I had previously. RT published the exchange for the benefit of our readers; our aim was to show that national socialism is oppositional, even revolutionary, and that it possesses a comprehensive worldview and morality that its opponents had better take seriously. Any effect the exchange produces among national socialists will be purely incidental. It never occurred to us to demand a reciprocal publication agreement that we have no way of monitoring or enforcing.
Ted's question about ethnic distinctiveness seems relatively peripheral to the main issue between us, and I prefer, therefore, to leave it for another time.
He writes that recognition of the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy is sufficient to define a revolutionary strategy. We disagree: there still remains the question, what should people who hold that view do? One thing we think they should not do is turn themselves into bloodhounds and pointers for official repressive agencies, under the pretext of opposing white supremacist groups.
In our editorial we noted that many of today's militia members must have been former Jesse Jackson voters. In pointing this out we did not intend to express support for Jackson or the Rainbow Coalition. We were offering evidence that, wherever those militia members stand now, they could not have been motivated principally by white supremacy. If the anger and yearning for change that initially stirred them has been corralled by organized fascists, the reason is in part because the so-called anti-racists have failed to link themselves with a revolutionary vision, but instead have projected themselves as allies of, or at most a pressure group within, official society. As we said, we think such a course fatal.
Ted points out, and we agree, that an opening to either "Total Change" or "Rainbow Coalition" alone would be self-defeating. But then he asserts that the only way to link them is to persuade the "angry whites" who support the militia movement of the positive value of the non-revolutionary aspects of the Rainbow Coalition. Why? Would he try to persuade Rainbow supporters of the positive value of the non-anti-white-supremacist aspects of the militia movement?
Although we share ideas with both the Rainbow Coalition and the militia movement, we belong to neither. Moreover, we reject the whole scheme of "direct action, writing books, propaganda of word and deed, and mass struggle for partial demands." We aim to define a new political current, that understands the centrality of the fight against white supremacy in revolutionary strategy and the need for a revolutionary approach to the fight against white supremacy. Why should that project cause him discomfort?
Phil Rubio properly questions whether there exist "guiltless whites." But having established the complicity of all whites with the system of white supremacy, where are we? Does he propose to write off the people he calls the " 'right' rank and file" (a category that, so far as we can see, includes just about all white folks in the country, the exceptions being a handful of self-proclaimed "leftists" and a dwindling number of liberals)? To label them a reactionary monolith solves the problem of how to talk to them. But if Orrin Hatch can fight for popular hegemony, why not the new abolitionists? We believe that to succeed they must draw a categorical line between themselves and official society. We are aware that to the extent the militia movement has formulated a world view, it is not ours. The aim of our editorial was not to mobilize support for the existing militias, but to criticize those on the "left" (by now a virtually meaningless term) who seek shelter in the arms of the state.
Moreover, it is not so clear that the militia movement equals the "right." In this connection we cite two recent news reports: the first, from the Boston Globe (Feb. 11, 1996), later picked up by the New York Times, is an account of a meeting called by Carolyn Chute, author of The Beans of Egypt, Maine and other books, with the aim of forming a militia group. "Many other militias and many individuals blame gays, blacks, Jews, Spanish-speaking folks, welfare mums, illegal drugs, seat belts, schools without prayers, women with shoes, abortions, environmentalists, unseen Communist forces and so-called liberals," she writes. "The whole of America is squabbling over these details while huge corporations smilingly take more than 50 percent off the top of the Federal budget for subsidies including outright handouts for researching new business opportunities in other countries where they can exploit foreign workers like they exploit us, all in the name of free enterprise and individual rights." Among those in attendance at the first meeting were a punk rocker, a retired plumber, a student, an artist, a Vietnam War conscientious objector, and a young Jewish man.
The second item is a report from the Toledo Blade (January n.d. 1996) of a black Detroit man who is forming a militia group. He sees it as a vehicle to battle an illegal court system and a corrupt elite class that cheats the common people and keeps black people down with drugs. When asked about the white supremacist backgrounds of some militia leaders, he replied, "Maybe there is some racism. If all they know is what they see about black people in the media, how can they help it? Once we sit down at the table, we'll work it out."
I did not intend, in my correspondence with Mr. Pendragon, to suggest that Jewish privilege existed outside of Israel. But since Peter Bohmer brought up the subject, I will say that I think U.S. Jews do enjoy a privilege apart from the privileges of whiteness; it consists largely in being able to invoke the "holocaust" against those who disagree with them on any issue. It is not very important, probably no more important than the discrimination Jews actually suffer as Jews. Jews are not the only people in this country who seek to trade on past sufferings in order to gain dispensation in the present: Irish refer constantly to the Famine and the "No Irish need apply" signs, and Armenians bring up the Genocide at every opportunity. This victim-game is based on the spurious claim that today's recipients of white-skin privileges are members of the same groups that suffered the atrocities of the past. They are not; in America they are whites, members of the favored race. And yes, Jews whine; the whine is the dominant tone in American political discourse, and Jews are part of the chorus.
What purpose would be served by my attempting to argue with Mr. Pendragon about the fact of the extermination of European Jewry? Could anything I say convince him that it had occurred, after mountains of books, articles, photographs, and documentary films had failed? Is Bohmer concerned that Pendragon's argument, left unanswered, might lead astray the readership of RT? I am glad that the Supreme Court takes a more restricted view than Bohmer of what constitutes obscenity.
If there is something distinctive in the Jewish tradition that produces radicals, is there something in the condition of Jewish life today that gives rise to neo-conservatism, a political trend largely the creation of Jewish former radicals? While Bohmer is claiming credit for Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, is he also willing to accept responsibility for Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol? Is the question further evidence of my anti-Semitism?
Bohmer raises three more criticisms of me. Whatever merit they may have, here they are mere shots fired at a stationary target, or insertions for the record. I'll have my say on them another time.
The letter from Name Withheld underscores something I noticed during my exchange with Pendragon, that a National Socialist seemed more decent on a human level than many of those on the left I've been debating for twenty-five years. Name Withheld is right about one thing: we do think the militia are not very different from the rest of white America. But we never said they are not to be particularly feared; in fact we explicitly said the opposite: they are armed, and white people with guns are always dangerous.
We agree with George Scialabba as to the folly of seeking to impose by force policies that are actively opposed by the majority of the populace. But his view is schematic; revolution is not an event that occurs on the day the revolutionaries gain fifty-percent- plus-one support. Revolution is a process, and public opinion is shaped by militant minorities who are able to "give a life / In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things / To a dream that was dreamed in the heart" (Padraic Pearse). We mounted our call "to arms" not with the expectation that we could overturn the government with our present forces but to indicate a way of developing a credible alternative to the existing society, a necessary part of changing "the moral sentiment of the nation."
As Rich Rees notes, historically there has been a link between civil rights and the federal government. The extent to which it still exists is open to question, and moreover it is a bit late for new abolitionists to allow it to determine their strategy.
To Brian Brasel, good luck with your 'zine. Noncommercial publications are welcome to reprint anything from Race Traitor, provided they credit the source.
We thank all those who wrote. Controversy linked with practical activity is the best protection against academic fashion.